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Old 08.12.2006, 13:40
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Making Friends with the Swiss

I read in my ex-pat guides that it takes a while to become more than just acquaintances with the Swiss if you are an auslander. I plan on being here for a while, at least a few years and hopefully longer, and I'm curious about this. After half a year I'm on a smile-nod-Gruezi, level with some of my neighbors with a bit of chat, and we are still in the "Sie" stage. I don't have kids, which always seems to be a good connection.
For those of you that have been here a while, what has your experience been? How have you connected with the Swiss on a social level? How long did it take? Making friends through work doesn't seem to be the way.
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Old 08.12.2006, 13:53
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

Personally, it took from living in rented accomodation to buying a place for me to "break the ice". When I was living in an apartment, everyone kept themselves to themselves
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Old 08.12.2006, 14:16
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

after many years i have a BIG network of swiss folks, but there are only two who i visit without a 3 months notice TERMIN. if you are somehow spontaneous you'll have to get used to schedule your social life exactly the same (or even more formal) as your business life. forget about to show up with a pack of beers to watch the football match just because you "feel it".

being in sports are a good way to make friends. not girlfriends though
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Old 08.12.2006, 14:27
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

My Ex was with me in the UK once and I suggested we should 'pop-in' on a friend unannounced. She couldn't believe it was considered appropriate to do so. She was mortified when my friend's Father answered the door, saying he was there to do some decorating and was there on his own: my pal had gone out. He invited us in anyway and we had a nice cuppa tea. It was like she awoke to a whole new universe of possibilities in social interaction.

You can forget doing that here.

Even in sportsclubs the emphasis is on 'working' the game (as opposed to just 'playing') and I found it quite difficult to make friends that way. Beers afterwards? Usually not.

Don't want this to sound like something from the "Swiss racist..?" thread, it's just a different approach here. I'd like to echo what others elsewhere have mentioned that once 'they' become friends, the Swissies are jolly good ones!
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Old 08.12.2006, 14:46
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

It is more of a cultural thing here. The norm is that you remain friends with those you went to school with. The longer you've known someone, the better a friend they are - even if you hate spending time with them. Because you've known the person since you were both in diapers, there's some weird connection.

It is much harder to break into friendship circles as an adult.
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Old 08.12.2006, 21:57
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

Quote:
It is more of a cultural thing here. The norm is that you remain friends with those you went to school with. The longer you've known someone, the better a friend they are - even if you hate spending time with them. Because you've known the person since you were both in diapers, there's some weird connection.

It is much harder to break into friendship circles as an adult.
true. that's a fact.
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Old 10.12.2006, 00:43
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

Hi,
I agree it is quite hard to make friends initially, however once made they are very loyal and having left switzerland 16 years ago I intend to return permanently next year, partly due to the stroing friendships I have maintained with my Swiss friends.

Even here in parts of Scotland popping in unannounced is frowned upon. i come from the east coast, our door was always open, neighbours firends coming and going all the time unannounced. However here in the west coast, very different, insular and very private. but still very kind and hearts of gold most of them.

make an effort, invite them to dinner, respect their ways of doing things and be patient !
joan
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Old 10.12.2006, 02:07
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

Quote:
forget about to show up with a pack of beers to watch the football match just because you "feel it".
Who actually still does this? When I was in college, around 20 or so, sure, it was normal. Now, as an adult, with a family and plenty of random yet necessary shit to do, I would be pretty pissed if someone showed up because they "felt like it". Nor would I ever think to visit anyone without making sure it was OK with them first.

Its hard anywhere to make good friends as an adult, I think. Work and existing personal relationships and responsibilities take up so much time that having any left over to establish new friendships is a luxury. Not to mention, would you want to "invest" that limited time in establishing a friendship with someone who's probably going to be leaving the country in a year or two?
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Old 10.12.2006, 13:20
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

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Who actually still does this? When I was in college, around 20 or so, sure, it was normal. Now, as an adult, with a family and plenty of random yet necessary shit to do, I would be pretty pissed if someone showed up because they "felt like it". Nor would I ever think to visit anyone without making sure it was OK with them first.

Its hard anywhere to make good friends as an adult, I think. Work and existing personal relationships and responsibilities take up so much time that having any left over to establish new friendships is a luxury. Not to mention, would you want to "invest" that limited time in establishing a friendship with someone who's probably going to be leaving the country in a year or two?
dunno, personally i don't go too much through speculations in relationships. if you are my friend and you drop by my house you're welcome, it doesn't matter if i'm busy. if i am, i'll probably put you to help me out, that's what frienship is all about. simple. i know some swiss dudes for more than 14 now and i can count with the fingers of one hand their spontaneous visits. whilst other foreign buddies do that without second thoughs. and i like it that way!
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Old 10.12.2006, 13:41
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

When I was single I used to love friends dropping by unannounced at all odd hours but now I don't like it any more. I like at least couple of hours notice. My living room has been converted to my work area so I meet my friends outside anyway
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Old 10.12.2006, 14:07
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

Hi guys. When I arrived here I was so naive about Swiss ways. I started missing my pub evenings almost immediately. There's something about the camaraderie and the laughing at silly things that just draws one to a good night in the local pub, and I just assumed that there must be somewhere similar in my village. Actually, five and a half years down the line, I now know that there are more pubs (restaurants) than businesses here in my village, you know... Krone, Sterne, Traube, Frohsinn, etc.etc. like every other village in Switzerland, but anyway, as I was saying, I went into one of the locals and pulled up a chair. I knew only a few words of German and didn't know the first thing about a "stammtisch". After an initial bit of silence and cold shoulder the conversation resumed, getting louder and louder with more and more laughing and joking. I think they had begun to forget that I was there. I could understand more than I could speak and I enjoyed trying to fathom what the jokes were all about. With time (about 6 months or so) they almost came to expect me at the Stammtisch, even though there were the standard jokes about having to be an "Eidgenoss". I would get waves in the street from my new circle of friends, introductions to their friends, greetings in the shops, invitations to dinner, etc. I actually learned Swiss German before German and even get told today by "foreigners" (Germans, Austrians, etc) that I have a Swiss accent when I try to speak Hochdeutsch.

The cold shoulder treatment continued from one or two diehards, even to this day, but so what - back home there were also people I didn't get on with. Today I've got a place at every Stammtisch in the village, and though I'm not really bosom buddies with anyone in particular from my village, I truly feel quite happy sometimes when I walk into a local pub and find a circle of familiar faces all laughing and chatting and making space for me to join in.

I'm not recommending that everyone rush off to a pub now to go and integrate, but I think that the only way the vast gulf between any foreigners and the Swiss can be bridged is by actively getting involved in something with them. Joining one of the local clubs (Vereins) is not only about doing whatever it is that they do, it's about getting a circle of people who enjoy similar stuff to you. I bought an ancient second hand rifle as an ornament and wanted to see if it still fired, so I asked around about where one could do this, and before I knew what was going on I was a member of the local shooting club. I don't really feel passionate about potting away at a target every Thursday, but I soon came to realise that the whole thing was about friends. I have been on a few weekends away to shoot in other Cantonal shooting competitions, and more than once I've had aching stomach muscles from all the non-stop laughs and fun.

Though they are sometimes painful with some of their ideas (never talk about money, never do anything spontaneous, only eat punctually at mealtimes, etc.) and though I have and will continue to complain about them sometimes, I just can't complain about their friendliness. One just has to find it, but it's there, I promise you.

My personal experience is that a lot of foreigners just refuse to accept that they are in Switzerland and want to keep to what they think is normal, not what the Swiss think is normal. If you do that you won't find the friendliness, but if you find the friendliness first then you can easily explain your own likes and dislikes and have them accepted. We get continuous spontaneous visits these days. Once we accepted their ways we got asked about our ways, and now it's actually a pain in the butt, but they seem to love this new idea of popping over out of the blue for a chat .

One more thing, the more you socialise, the better you can understand Swiss German. The better you understand Swiss German, the more you understand these people and the everpresent undercurrent of humour. Yes, believe me, it's there, and when you can find it and understand it you'll see these people in a different light. I've read a few people's discussions of language on this forum, and it's amazing that so many people take the High German so seriously! We're living in Switzerland, and no matter what they say, it's a foreign language here. One only has to listen to a school teacher and her class speaking High German to realise how much of a foreign language it is to them. You'll never get really close to a Swiss German speaker using Hochdeutsch, so make the effort to speak their language. They like it, and they'll like you.

Shaka.
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  #12  
Old 10.12.2006, 14:29
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

Excellent post Shaka! The local volunteer fire brigade is also a good 'club' to join if you can. You have exposed the advantage of being outside a 'big' city like Zurich. I'm not sure if your tactics are possible there...
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Old 10.12.2006, 15:41
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

Its really good to see such a positive post about life here. It is against the grain of most of the swiss related posts. I think I'll try learning some german before I go and gate crash my local pub though...
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Old 10.12.2006, 16:50
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

THANK YOU Shaka !
Your word in the Expats ears,and just as a small note it's not only for expats that 'it' works often best this way, even we switzies can get frowned upon when moving to a new area, and it can be for us just as difficult to meet new ppl or make new friends.So your post counts for Swiss and expats alike!!!

There are just two things that makes it easier for us, usually there is no language barrier or at least not such a big one, and we are better at knowing the 'unwritten' rules in society in CH because we grew up with them........
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Old 11.12.2006, 13:09
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

Hello,

Yes good post Shaka.

Not sure I will make a tour of all the "Stammtisch" in Neuchâtel though.

However I would just like to make a couple of points as and Irish person living in Swiss Romande for about 8 years now.

I don't think the pub culture has entered into the Swiss mentality yet. In
Ireland for example everyone meets in the pub (even more so than our English cousins perhaps). The pub has two main advantages it is a neutral terrain and it is a good social leveller (the mayor has the same right to his pint as the road sweeper).

If I meet someone at work I might suggest that he join us in the local pub for a few pints. I will introduce him to my friends and hope it takes off. However I have had the experience with some German and French people in
Dublin that they are a bit surprised at the superficial nature of it all. They may expect you to spend the entire night talking to them or entertaining them. With some they float but others don't.

This idea of a friendship on a superficial basis does not exist in
Switzerland and indeed in Germany either. People are more calculating about making friendships. This may be because it leads to dinner invitations at someone’s house where if problems arise the situation is much more complicated, it is difficult to make a quick in such a more formal setting. In a pub in Ireland you can leave when you like (as long as it is not your round next!!)

On the language front, I think there are a number of people who move here with their companies for a big job and as English speakers they have been told
Switzerland is no problem. It is a difficult humbling experience having to mime what you want in the middle of a department store especially when you know the assistant is just pretending he cannot speak English. However you must remember you are the one who does not speak the language. If you want to integrate, make an effort with the language it will help a lot. The Swiss find the Anglo-Saxon sexy when you speak French.

Finally I would like to say that I think the Swiss Romande is easier (Shaka refers primarily to German speaking
Switzerland).
Firstly the language is French so if you have done any at school you should at least recognise those old French words you know and love.
Secondly I don't think the people here are as rigid as in some Swiss German parts where rules are rules, although here they may trot them out when it suits them ;-)).

By the way this is not an attempt to start a “rosti graben” argument!!

In closing maybe a bit of advice:

Sometimes if you take an initiative others will follow.

When I arrived here in Neuchâtel I lived in with my French girlfriend in an apartment building where there were some young people. We organised an appero in the communal garden (neutral terrain).
This was not too expensive, bought some beer and had lots of duty free Irish whiskey. We recruited a couple of people we knew (nodding acquaintance) from the building so we were sure that someone would turn up and we invited the others by knocking on doors or putting leaflets in boxes etc.
On the day I had a portable bbq to one side as the appero was going so well we lit it and soon another bbq appeared out of nowhere and we were there till after midnight. Now this is an annual event and even though we have moved to a house outside town, we go there every year for a bbq.
Worked for us, might work for you.
Worst outcome you bring the left over beer round to some other ex-pat’s place and you watch the match on Sky.
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Old 02.01.2007, 00:26
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

Hello,
My husband got a job in Basel and we are moving there in February. We dont have any children so your messages got me quite concerned. I wonder if anyone could tell me if there are any English clubs i could join, or any other ideas how to get friends in Basel. Thank you.
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Old 02.01.2007, 16:29
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

Quote:
Hello,
My husband got a job in Basel and we are moving there in February. We dont have any children so your messages got me quite concerned. I wonder if anyone could tell me if there are any English clubs i could join, or any other ideas how to get friends in Basel. Thank you.
Clubs that spring to mind are:
- Centrepoint: http://www.centrepoint.ch

Also, the Centrepoint "links" page has links to some other clubs like the American Women's Club, Anglo-Swiss club.

If you like amateur dramatics, have a look at the Semi-Circle ( http://www.semi-circle.ch ) - they have regular stuff going on. There is a production currently in rehearsal but it isn't too late to get involved backstage. Also, they have regular play readings - also a good way to meet folk.

If you like running, drinking beer and having a fun time (with emphasis on the latter ) check out the Hash House Harriers - http://basel.harrier.eu.org.

By far the best way to meet Swiss folk is to get involved in a club for your favourite sport or other hobby. I'm into Aikido and joined a local Aikido club near to where I live and they've been great with me. Also now I am involved with a Fasnacht clique which is about as "going native" as you can possibly get.

If you want to ask some Basel-specific questions, I'd suggest joining the following two Yahoo groups:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BaselLounge
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BaselExpat

Do take advantage of the "Search" function in the Yahoo groups as there are quite a lot of useful postings on there.

HTH.
Nick
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Old 03.01.2007, 14:14
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

Thank you for all information. Its been a great help!!!!
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Old 04.01.2007, 21:02
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

Hi all,

I was here for over 2 years before even meeting another English speaking person....

99% of my friends are Swiss and I have never had a problem making friends - be it here or back in the UK.

It's true that it's hard to just pop round and see people but then I have very little free time too so I kinda get that.

I have a huge network of friends.

On New Years Eve I was in a club in Vevey and I met well over 100 people that I knew and consider friends! And not one of them was an English speaker.

I guess it all depends on your own personality and how you come to be here etc.

A lot of the English speakers I know have been here for years and can barely get by in French. They work in English, they live with English people, their children are at English speaking schools, they socialise in English, they have sky tv at home....

I work in French, live with a Swiss person, have no children or tv and socialise with my friends who are almost all Swiss....

That's my tuppence worth!
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Old 04.01.2007, 21:11
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Re: Making Friends with the Swiss

Quote:
Hi all,

I was here for over 2 years before even meeting another English speaking person....

99% of my friends are Swiss and I have never had a problem making friends - be it here or back in the UK.

It's true that it's hard to just pop round and see people but then I have very little free time too so I kinda get that.

I have a huge network of friends.

On New Years Eve I was in a club in Vevey and I met well over 100 people that I knew and consider friends! And not one of them was an English speaker.

I guess it all depends on your own personality and how you come to be here etc.

A lot of the English speakers I know have been here for years and can barely get by in French. They work in English, they live with English people, their children are at English speaking schools, they socialise in English, they have sky tv at home....

I work in French, live with a Swiss person, have no children or tv and socialise with my friends who are almost all Swiss....

That's my tuppence worth!
I do agree with you. Basically, if you try to get on with swiss you probably will. I guess most English are not used to the culture and consider Swiss behaviour as rude.
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